Utah sues Biden over move to restore 2 national monuments

Aug 24, 2022, 1:34 PM | Updated: Aug 25, 2022, 9:04 am
FILE - This July 9, 2017, photo, shows a view of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Uta...

FILE - This July 9, 2017, photo, shows a view of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah. Utah state and county officials sued the Biden administration Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022, over the president's decision last year to restore two sprawling national monuments on rugged lands sacred to Native Americans that President Trump had downsized. (Spenser Heaps/The Deseret News via AP, File)

(Spenser Heaps/The Deseret News via AP, File)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The state of Utah and two Republican-leaning rural counties sued the Biden administration on Wednesday over the president’s decision last year to restore two sprawling national monuments on rugged lands sacred to Native Americans that former President Donald Trump had downsized.

The lawsuit over Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, the two southeastern Utah monuments, alleges that President Joe Biden’s action violates a century-old law that allows presidents to protect sites considered historically, geographically or culturally important and outlines the rules governing when they can do so.

The fate of the monuments is among the United States’ most prominent battles over public lands and how they’re managed. Federal land management decisions often become politically charged throughout the rural West, where Republican-leaning ranching communities skeptical of federal overreach are often pitted against conservationists and tribes who argue robust federal protections are needed as a bulwark against development or industries like mining or logging.

The new lawsuit is the latest twist in a yearslong debate spanning three presidential administrations. Its arguments revisit familiar legal and political debates and touch on points Republicans have for years repeated in court and in campaign speeches about federal land grabs and advantages of local land management.

The challenge from Utah and two right-leaning rural jurisdictions, Kane and Garfield counties, had been expected since Biden restored the lands in October 2021. At that time, Biden called Bears Ears “a place of reverence and a sacred homeland to hundreds of generations of native peoples.”

The monuments, which together are nearly the size of Connecticut, contain canyons surrounded by pink ribbons of limestone, dramatic red rock mesas and buttes, juniper forests and Native American artifacts including ancient cliff dwellings and petroglyphs.

In a Wednesday joint statement in support of the lawsuit, Gov. Spencer Cox and Utah’s entire congressional delegation accused the federal government of not properly managing the land and blamed the expanded monuments for “unmanageable visitation levels.”

“We now challenge this repeated, abusive federal overreach to ensure that our public lands are adequately protected and that smart stewardship remains with the people closest to the land,” said the group, whose signatories included U.S. Sens. Mitt Romney and Mike Lee.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the administration had no comment about the lawsuit.

The lawsuit brings the battle over these lands back to the courtroom, similar to what happened in 2017 after Trump made his move to shrink the monuments. At that time, lawsuits were filed by outdoor company Patagonia and a coalition of tribes including the Hopi, Ute Indian, Ute Mountain Ute, Zuni tribes and Navajo Nation to restore the monuments.

“The tribes have been fighting for decades, and really centuries, to protect these lands,” Matthew Campbell, deputy director of the Native American Rights Fund, said Wednesday. “It looks like they will have to continue that fight.”

The part of southeastern Utah where the two monuments are located has been at the center of some of the country’s most heated land management debates since President Bill Clinton designated Grand Staircase a national monument in 1996.

Bears Ears, which was designated a National Monument by President Barack Obama, is unique because land management decisions are made by a commission jointly governed by federal agency officials and representatives from five tribal nations. The commission was reestablished this past June, five years after it and an Obama-era joint governance plan was scrapped when the Trump administration downsized the monuments in 2017.

That decision opened parts of the monuments up for mining, drilling and other development. Low demand and high production costs led to minimal interest from energy companies in the lands that became unprotected when Trump downsized the monuments, including a large coal reserve found in the lands cut from Grand Staircase or uranium on lands cut from Bears Ears.

Utah’s lawsuit argues the Biden administration interpreted the 1906 Antiquities Act in an overly broad manner and disregarded its original intent: protecting particular historical or archaeological sites. It cites provisions of the act that say designations should encompass “the smallest area compatible” with preservation goals.

Democratic presidents have argued designating large swaths of land is needed to protect certain areas and in his October 2021 proclamation, Biden called the Bears Ears designation “the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects of historic and scientific interest.”

___

Associated Press writer Aamer Madhani in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - San Francisco Mayor London Breed speaks during a briefing outside City Hall in San Francisco...
Associated Press

San Francisco mayor pledges again a crackdown on drug sales

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco Mayor London Breed pledged for the second time in a year Wednesday to crack down on open-air opioid drug sales and rampant public drug use that she says is destroying the city. What’s different this time, she said at a news conference, is that police officers have support from […]
14 hours ago
FILE - Water flows along the All-American Canal Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022, near Winterhaven, Calif. T...
Associated Press

California water agencies offer Colorado River savings

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California water agencies that rely on the parched Colorado River said Wednesday they can reduce their use by one-tenth starting in 2023 in response to calls for cuts from the federal government. The agencies, which supply water to farmers and millions of people in Southern California, laid out their proposal in […]
14 hours ago
Associated Press

How major US stock indexes fared Wednesday 10/5/2022

Stocks ended slightly lower on Wall Street as a gangbuster two-day rally ran out of gas. The S&P 500 ended 0.2% lower Wednesday after briefly heading into the green late in the day. Its early rally this week was the biggest since the spring of 2020, spurred in part by hopes a softening economy may […]
14 hours ago
Associated Press

Smart Global Holdings, Newmont fall; Lamb Weston, RPM rise

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks that traded heavily or had substantial price changes Wednesday: Emerson Electric Co., up $1.52 to $79.77. The maker of process control systems, valves and analytical instruments is reportedly considering a partial sale to Blackstone. Lamb Weston Holdings Inc., up $3.30 to $82.15. The frozen french fry maker’s fiscal first-quarter earnings […]
14 hours ago
Associated Press

Ford offers $80 million to fight global authoritarianism

The Ford Foundation will commit $80 million over the next five years to work that strengthens nonprofits fighting against authoritarian regimes. Such groups are struggling in the face of governments that are restricting the right to protest, hobbling nonprofit organizations with an avalanche of bureaucratic requirements meant to stymie their effectiveness, and threatening the safety […]
14 hours ago
Associated Press

Alabama pastor indicted on charges of rape, sex abuse

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — A south Alabama pastor was arrested Tuesday after being indicted on rape and sex abuse charges, news outlets reported. A grand jury indicted Gregory Renee Adams, 64, on five counts of rape, two counts of sodomy and two counts of sexual abuse by force, according to court documents. Two of the […]
14 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
Utah sues Biden over move to restore 2 national monuments